The Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) has informed its partner communities what their levies will be for this year. The approximate five per cent increase in the levy will go towards retaining existing services and improving the organization’s E-resources, where it is seeing increasing demand. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Library system to increase E-resources, eliminate fees on children’s materials and get into video games

Budget increase at VIRL sees Campbell River paying five per cent more into library system

The City of Campbell River will pay five per cent more into the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) system in 2019 than it did in 2018.

The city received its bill for the first quarter of 2019, totalling $386,354, at council’s last public meeting. The total amount the city will pay this year is anticipated to be $1,545,417.

That’s a 5.2 per cent increase over 2018’s contributions to the system – an increase of $76,584, according to the VIRL’s 2019-2023 financial plan report, which was approved back in September.

This means the average residential property in Campbell River will pay approximately $85 into the library system in 2019.

There are many reasons for the increase, the VIRL says in its report, the main one of which is increasing wages. In fact, 2.62 per cent of the increases are just to continue the core services the system offers and 47 per cent of every dollar that comes into that system is spent on wages and benefits.

But like any organization, the VIRL isn’t looking to stagnate by just continuing to do what they do. The world is changing, and libraries have to change and adapt along with it, the report says.

One major shift in the way people use library services has meant the VIRL has seen a four per cent decline in circulation of print material over the past six years, along with a three per cent increase in the costs of those materials.

“On the other hand,” the report reads, “the demand for digital resources has risen by 25 per cent annually on average. To respond to this trend, VIRL has been able to reallocate a portion of the materials budget from print to digital every year. However, the current budget is not sufficient to meet the growing demand for our popular digital collections, while maintaining sufficient print items to meet customer expectations.”

And so, $50,000 has been added to the VIRL budget to improve and increase its electronic resources to “reduce wait times for the current collection and to improve the overall diversity of the eBook/audio book collection.”

There is also money in the budget increase to cover the revenues the library system will lose from the elimination of fines on children’s material. The VIRL says in its report that up to $63,000 is charged in late fees each year across the system on children’s materials, but the benefit of eliminating the fines far outweigh that financial impact.

“By eliminating fines for children’s materials we will be eliminating a major barrier children experience in accessing library services,” the report says, adding that fines “disproportionately affect low-income families,” and eliminating fines for children’s materials “is a chance for VIRL to show leadership in the library profession by responding to a demonstrated community need with a simple and innovative solution.”

Oh, and they’re getting into the video game market.

The VIRL will be adding Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One games into the fold in an attempt to meet the “under-served” needs of teens, Millennials and Generation X customers.

“A video game collection th VIRL would support and foster the collaborative and cooperative nature of video gaming, bringing people together around a common interest and shared experience while leveraging our branches and collections to foster increased connections and community building,” the report says.

The 2019 VIRL budget will see $56,250 spent on the games, and the collection is expected to be in place in time to launch on March 23 at GEEKCON in Nanaimo. Going forward, $45,000 per year has been added to the budget to purchase more games in subsequent years to build the collection.